Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Best World War II Films You Didn't Like

In preparation for going to see Letters From Iwo Jima, I watched Flags of Our Fathers again. Back when it was released theatrically, I called it another Eastwood masterpiece, a subtle one, at that. However, even as I wrote those words, I hated the ending, didn't much care for the editing, and felt it was a bit sloppy. Judging by the box office, it's apparent that much of America was in agreement.

Well, after the second viewing, I still hate the ending, I absolutely adore the editing, but still feel it a bit sloppy. Weird, eh? Some movies just deserve a second chance, and though I liked it initially, I appreciate it even more after a repeat viewing.

Anyway (or is it anyhoo?), I decided to write about three excellent World War II movies that you probably didn't like. Flags of Our Fathers is the first, so there's no need to rehash that here. The second was a victim of bad release timing, and the third is a foreign cartoon.

The Thin Red Line. Terrence Malick's 1998 remake of an obscure 1964 war film. And an absolutely wonderful, masterful, downright phenomenal piece of cinema. But, I know you hated it. Why did you hate it? Well, it had the unfortunate stigma of being released near Steven Spielberg's equally wonderful, masterful, downright phenomenal piece of cinema known as Saving Private Ryan.

Spielberg's film was not only a critical success, it had all the right pieces to be a commercial success, and was. So, the idiots at 20th Century Fox, realizing they could ride a Spielberg-induced World War II wave, decided to market it as a traditional, study-in-violence war film. So, everyone who went to see it theatrically expected a Pacific Theater version of Saving Private Ryan. What they got was a slow, boring, almost banal film in which nothing much happened.

Which is exactly what it was supposed to be. Only a whole ton of things happened in this beautiful, beautiful film. The Thin Red Line was not a war film. It was a film about humanity, set during a war. It was a film focusing on the psychological makeup of men. And what a lesson it taught. For those of you that saw it, hated it, and stated that you would never see it again, do watch it again. This time, rid yourself of everything you expect of a typical war film, and watch this movie with the same eyes you watch The Godfather or Rob Roy with. You'll wind up loving it. Guaranteed. Unless you're a moron.

Grave of the Fireflies. A Japanese cartoon that, at first glance, appears to be one of the famed Studio Ghibli films. It is, however, anything but. Like The Thin Red Line, it is based upon a true story, and is a study of humanity rather than a film focused on the war itself.

Be warned, this is a depressing, depressing movie, but also as beautiful and wonderful as any other movie you've ever seen. Case in point, I made a friend of mine watch it. This friend claimed that no movie had ever made her cry. Well, upon completion of Grave of the Fireflies, she stormed into the other room, slammed the door, and cried for the better part of an hour. This film is that powerful. And it's a cartoon. It also makes several critics' "Best War Movies of All Time" lists, including uber-critic Roger Ebert's. It's also on mine, but that's beside the point.

I won't ruin it for those of you that will actually take the time to see it, but it's well worth the emotional roller-coaster it'll take you on.

Anyhoo (or is it anyway?), I'll let you know what I think of Letters From Iwo Jima by this weekend, I'm sure. Until then, revisit (or visit) the three films above. You'll be doing yourselves a favor.


Anonymous said...

I did not!!! Ok...I'm lying...I did! Grave of the Fireflies is definitely the sadest movie I've EVER seen...second only to Road to Perdition! Wow...even writing this was depressing.

Posted by LISA on February 7, 2007 - Wednesday - 9:02 PM

Anonymous said... I just realized I misspelled saddest...but anyways...back to the point...I still think it has something to do with the little boy looking like you!

Posted by LISA on February 7, 2007 - Wednesday - 9:10 PM

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